A group of Philadelphia engineers has received honors for their work in energy conservation, and you might be surpised to learn whom they work for.Known as the Academy Awards of the energy industry, the Platts Global Energy Awards took place last week in New York. And a finalist for the “Engineering Project of the Year” category is (envelope, please): the United States Navy. Engineers at the Philadelphia Naval Yard are responsible for some of the newest technological advances in energy efficiency aboard Navy ships today, including the Platts-Award-worthy USS Makin Island: the world’s first hybrid ship.It has, like many ships, a gas turbine for actually propelling itself through the water. It also has an electric plant for all the mechanical workings of the ship – heating the water, cooking the food, and keeping the lights on. But as Abe Boughner, the ship’s design intergration manager noticed, there was a lot of extra energy available from the electric grid. “We said, why don’t we redirect this excess generating capacity in to propulsion? That way we can shut down this very thirsty gas turbine and just sip the electricity we need off of this electric grid and use that to power the ship.” And a hybrid was born. The work of the engineers doesn’t stop with USS Makin Island, though. Here, in an old Naval Yard airplane hanger, they’re busy working to integrate the new technology into the engines of other naval vessels, including destroyers that are now on active duty around the world.”Philadelphia’s role is to do all that testing here ashore where its safe and easy to do and when we have all the issues ironed out or bugs ironed out as it were we can take it out to sea,” says Dr. Michael Golda, the chief technologist here.
He’s strolling around a full-scale, functioning model of a destroyer’s machine room. He says the engine runs as if it were on the water “We can do everything here except get sea sick,” he says. Dr. Goulda will use this model to install and test the new electric propulsion technology on destroyer engines. He says, “You can see there’s not a lot of extra space here, so we have to find a place for the motor and a place for the controls.”Once all the pieces are in place, the system will be installed on 60 destroyer ships currently at sea.